Joy Archer is the Communications Director for Bainbridge Aquatic Masters in Washington, and she learned everything that she needs to know about marriage in the pool.
Clear communication helps everyone.
There are universal truths in team swimming. Everyone wants to know what the set is. Everyone wants to know when we’re leaving the wall. Everyone wants to know what’s expected – are we going easy for this 500 or are we negative splitting by 100s? Depending on what’s communicated, the outcome will be vastly different and there will be problems. If my husband thinks we agreed to not spend any extra money for the next two months and I believe this to mean “it’s ok to buy things if they’re on sale,” there will be problems.
Sprinting is hard.
But it makes you stronger for the times when you get to swim at a comfortable pace. There are times in a marriage when you’re doing all you can to reach the wall – kicking furiously, arms wind-milling, breath screaming in your lungs. Maybe you have a new baby in the house, or you’re moving or you have a new job. Those are sprints. Those are all-systems-go-exhausting. So when the recovery lap comes, soak it up.
Be welcoming. Be kind.
Even if you know everybody in your lane super well, and you’ve been swimming together for years, being welcoming and kind on a daily basis is a huge help for setting the tone for the workout. You don’t know what your spouse has been through while you were apart – leading with a welcoming, kind spirit softens all the edges.
Technique is key.
The “how” of swimming – how you execute the stroke – is a fundamental that your entire swimming life is built on. This is why we do drills – to break down the strokes into small bits that we can focus on and improve. The “how” of marriage is equally critical. Your entire life is built on it. How’s your marriage stroke? Are you a sulker when you argue? Are you so sunny your partner can’t get you to focus on very real problems? Every day is like a drill during which you get to fine-tune your marriage stroke. Notice the tiny bits because they do matter – the wrong angle can cause all manner of mayhem that takes months to fix.
Sometimes we get to use toys.
Like paddles. Give them a try, even if they seem weird and scary.
The more you do it, the easier it is.
I love talking with newcomers to our group about how they like swimming. Because this reminds me how incredibly hard the early days were, and shows me how far I’ve come. It used to be a massive challenge to not lose my temper while making dinner with the children underfoot. It used to be incredibly difficult to speak kindly to my husband when he made a thoughtless comment. Now, years and years into this gig, I can wake at 4:45, swim a mixed-stroke-intensive 3500 yards and still have energy left to gab in the locker room. It just gets easier the more you practice it.
From time to time, abandon your routine.
We love our ruts. Routines ground us and make us feel comfortable and secure and content. They can also be what kills our spirit and makes us gnash our teeth. Getting out of the pool from time to time and trying something different (Spin class! Yoga!) – no matter how daunting, can be exactly what’s needed for your sanity. If you always stay in on Saturdaynights, make a date with friends to see a play or a movie. You’ll learn to use different muscles. You’ll stop gnashing your teeth.
Go 5 seconds apart. And sometimes, 10.
Everyone needs personal space. Everyone needs some independence. Everyone needs a little room to get the stroke right.